A method of recycling re-useable food-contact polypropylene crates (RPC) into new PP crates has been approved by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority).
The EFSA Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF) was asked by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, The Netherlands to evaluate the safety of the recycling process “INTERSEROH Step 1”.
EFSA said the closed product loop process for recycled PP crates in in the implementation phase and it not yet authorized by any European Member State.
According to INTERSEROH Dienstleistungs GmbH, based in Germany, the recycling process, called “INTERSEROH Step 1” is intended to recycle cleaned damaged food contact RPC’s which have been used and recycled in a closed and controlled product loop into new recycled crates.
The crates are used for the packaging of whole fruits and vegetables.
What it involves
The process involves cleaned damaged crates being ground into flakes and used to manufacture new recycled crates. These recycled crates are intended to be used for long term storage of whole fruits and vegetables at room temperature or below.
The input of the recycling process consists of damaged pre-washed RPC or parts of crates that have been used in a closed loop of growers, distributors and retailers for packaging, transport, storage and display of whole fruits and vegetables.
“The applicant is the supplier of the input material and performs pooling and washing. Grinding and injection moulding are performed by another company as a part of the loop,” said the opinion.
“Recycled flakes are intended to be used to manufacture new recycled PP crates with or without blending with virgin polypropylene (PP), at levels ranging from three to 100%.”
The panel tested migration of the fraction with a molecular weight below 1000 Da with Size Exclusion Chromatography/Evaporative Light-Scattering (ELSD) and Ultraviolet (UV) detectors, migration of semi-volatile substances with Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS), migration of anti-oxidants and light stabilizers with High Performance Liquid Chromatography/UV or ELSD; and volatile compounds present at the surface of the plastics by Thermal Desorption/GC/MS.
“Migration of semi-volatile substances into isooctane was measured by GC/MS. The peaks in the chromatograms that were increased for the recycled material have been examined and identified as far as possible. The identified substances were degradation products of polymer, antioxidants, stabilizers and a plasticizer,” said the panel.
”The increase in migration for the substances in recycled materials versus virgin material were not significant for the plasticizer, were up to 10 μg/dm² for the polymer related fraction and up to 43 μg/dm² for the stabilizers and antioxidants.
“Migration of antioxidants and stabilizers into isooctane, measured by HPLC techniques increased up two times from the recycled material, but it remained far below existing specific limits for these substances. Specific migration in 15% ethanol was not detectable in all cases.”
The Panel considered that repeated grinding and injection moulding of PP crates which is part of the recycling process is not of safety concern.
It recommended it should be verified periodically and specifications for input used within a product loop which is in a closed and controlled chain should be kept under control to ensure that the process is run under the evaluated conditions.